The Chateau Pichon Longueville (or Pichon Baron as it is often called) can trace its roots back to the 1500s when it was known as Batisse and was the stronghold of the family Montguyon who were family vassals of the Lords of Latour.
The vineyards lie at the southern end of Pauillac, immediately alongside those of Chateau Latour, on a high plateau between the village of Saint Lambert and the town of Saint Julien. During the 18th century its wines were considered the equal of Brane Mouton (now Mouton Rothschild) and only Latour was better reputed at the time.
The chateau gained its current name in 1646 when the Baron Bernard de Pichon married Anne Daffis de Longueville, the only daughter of Baron de Longueville, from the town of the same name near Agen. The Pichon family was ancient, noble and distinguished.
It can be traced back to the 12th century, and from the 14th century onwards members of the family played a conspicuous part in affairs of state; Bernard was a prominent and consistent supporter of the Crown during the Fronde.
In 1643, Anne of Austria, the widow of King Louis XIII, had her husband’s Will annulled and became the sole regent. She then entrusted power to Cardinal Mazarin and a civil war—the Fronde—erupted. Her son, Louis XIV (the Sun King) was only 5 years old at the time.
The Frondeurs claimed to act on Louis’s behalf and in his real interest against his mother and Cardinal Mazarin. The word fronde means sling, which Parisian mobs used to smash the windows of supporters of Cardinal Mazarin. The term frondeur was later used to refer to anyone who will show insubordination or engage in criticism of the powers in place.
Bernard de Pichon, then President of the Parliament of Bordeaux, entertained Louis XIV, inviting him to his residence to hunt quail and banquet to show support for the young King who had been ordered to marry Maria Theresa, Infanta of Austria by Cardinal Mazarin.
Louis also visited Bernard de Pichon’s house in the Chapeau Rouge in Bordeaux. At the time of the Fronde various districts took arms against each other and a battle between the Parti de l’Ormée (a group opposed to the monarchy, named due to the fact that their gathering place was under the elm trees,
Ormée in French) and the Bien Intentionnés (meaning Well Intentioned, ie those who represented the side of Order and Peace, who were from Chapeau Rouge) resulted in 400 deaths.
The idea of the times is shown in Alexandre Dumas’ novel Twenty Years After (the sequel to The Three Musketeers) which follows events in France during La Fronde, during the childhood reign of Louis XIV.
You may have seen the films The Four Musketeers and The Return of the Musketeers which are based on the book. Louis’s coming-of-age and subsequent coronation put an end to the Fronde and he began personally governing France in 1661 after the death of Cardinal Mazarin.
Bernard de Pichon had two children, creating two different branches of the Pichon family. The elder son, Francis, gained a large Barony in Parempuyre (Haut Medoc) in 1671 by marriage and in which lies the roots of Château Clément Pichon (now Chateau Clément Fayat).
The younger son, Jacques, married Therese, the daughter of Pierre de Masures Rauzan (known as the Wizard of Vines) who owned what we now know as Chateaux Rauzan Gassies and Rauzan Ségla in Margaux.
The Rauzan family had purchased forty plots of vines in Pauillac which were added to the Pichon estate – as well as exchanging plots of vines with neighbouring Latour.
In 1850 the estate was divided into the 2 current Pichon estates: Château Pichon Longueville and Château Pichon Lalande (see my Blog Chateau Pichon Lalande and the Ladies of the Vine). In 1864 Baron Raoul de Pichon Longueville
purchased the Armagnac producing Chateau de Briat. Built in 1540, de Briat is a former hunting manor commissioned by Queen Jeanne d’Albret for her son Henri de Navarre, later Henri IV King of France.
Pichon Longueville stayed in the same family for over 250 years but in 1933 it was sold to the Bouteillier family (also owners of Chateaux Lanessan, Lachesnaye and de Sainte Gemme) who are direct descendants of the Wine Steward to King Louis XIV.
A strange co-incidence don’t you think – I wonder if the Baron Bernard and Bouteillier ever met at Louis’ Court? When the Pichon Longueville was sold, the Château de Briat was retained by Baron Raoul de Pichon Longueville’s maternal ancestors, the de Luze family.
In 1987 the estate was purchased by the French insurance company AXA (also owners of Châteaux Petit Village, Pibran and Suduiraut), who immediately appointed Jean Michel Cazes, owner of Château Lynch Bages, as administrator.
AXA invested heavily into the Château and the chai wasn’t just renovated, it was completely rebuilt. The new buildings face each other across the fish pool in front of the château and the cellars extend beneath the pool which allows the cool waters above to moderate the temperatures below
. Today Pichon Longueville is managed by Christian Seely, Jean-Michel Cazes having retired from this role in 2000.
Château Pichon Longueville’s wines are the opposite of its one time sister Château Pichon Lalande. They have a stronger, more structured style and need cellaring for at least 10 years.
The wines have a heady perfume and are powerful yet as smooth as velvet. They have the flavours of cherries, cassis, dried toast, vanilla and cranberries. If you would like to learn more or try them for yourself check out www.interestinwine.co.uk.